By Jack Rothenberg
The Maryland Terrapins travelled to Madison, Wisconsin and defeated the No. 6 ranked Wisconsin Badgers 70-64, to earn their first win against a top 10 team since 2016. The Terps pulled off the upset thanks to a blazing hot shooting performance in the second half and a small-ball defensive clinic. Following the under 12 timeout, Maryland hit their next nine shots, and ended the game making 11 of their last 12 from the field leading to the victory. Even though the Terps switched between a 3-2 zone and man-to-man, players such as senior guard Daryll Morsell (six foot, five inches) and sophomore forward Donta Scott (six-foot, seven inches) were forced to guard the Badgers’ two centers who are both at least three inches taller. Morsell and Scott were up to the task, as they helped the team out-rebound Wisconsin 32-29.
The vaunted Wisconsin defense stifled Maryland in the first half as the Terps shot a mere 37% from the floor. But that number doesn’t show the whole picture. The Terps missed their last five shots in the frame’s final four minutes and their first six shots at the start of the second half. In total, Maryland went nearly seven and a half minutes without a basket. This is the sort of defensive stretch that an efficient Badgers team uses to put its opponents away. However, Maryland’s defense was nearly as strong holding Wisconsin to just one basket and three free throws and not allowing Wisconsin to push their lead to more than eight over that stretch.
The Terps’ bench played a big role in the win as well generating energy that gave the team a lift throughout the game. “Our guys really like each other… I told guys if they’re not going to bring more energy, I’m going to leave them home. I’ll get people off the street and start COVID testing them everyday. Our guys have brought energy ever since we said that,” head coach Mark Turgeon said.
Eric Ayala’s three point jump shot with 10:45 to play, one of two he made in the closing stretch, gave Maryland its first lead of the second half. The teams jockeyed back and forth with Wisconsin getting in front 52-51 when Aleem Ford nailed a three point jumper to answer, and Aaron Wiggins’ traditional three-point play that gave Maryland a short-lived 51-49 lead. A three point jumper by Jarius Hamilton with just over five minutes left put the Terps ahead to stay. With the Terps clinging to a one point lead, the team’s emerging star, sophomore Donta Scott Scott took over and put Maryland in position to seal the win. Scott started his burst of dominant play with a short jumper in the lane. He rebounded a missed three pointer by Wisconsin guard D’Mitrik Price and made another SportCenter Top10 play with a posterizing dunk over Nate Reuvers. The Terps capped off the resume building win by making six free throws, a weak spot against Purdue, to seal the deal.
Turgeon, junior guard Aaron Wiggins, Morsell, and junior guard Eric Ayala spoke postgame about what it was like spending the holiday season away from home. Maryland played on Christmas Day at Purdue and remained in West Lafayette until they travelled to Madison. All four said eating meals together, having NBA 2K tournaments, and just spending time together has made them closer and will benefit them moving forward. “It’s been a whole lot of fun… it kind of takes our minds off of basketball. We just get to know each other and it helps us with our chemistry off and on the court,” Ayala said.
Now Maryland looks ahead to a New Years Eve meeting with the 16th ranked Michigan Wolverines. After the win against the Badgers, the future for this team looks much brighter and who knows – maybe they will pull off a second upset in 3 days.
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